HOW TO CATCH WESTERN ROCK LOBSTER
The season for the rec sector kicks off as the demersal fishing closure kicks in on the 15th of October.
The majority of lobster fishers do not get going until around the full moon of November. This period marks the start of what is called the white run. The white run also coincides with an annual event of seagrass flowering. The seagrass flowers are often called sea bananas. Once you start to see the floating clumps of sea bananas you can be sure that the white run is either under way or only days away.
You can see the difference between the red lobster (early and late season) flanked by two whites which run from about November to January (same species, different stages of migration)
The white run of Western rock lobsters is so important for the rec sector because this is the time that the majority of lobster will make their migration into the shallow coastal waters. It is this time that the recreational sector has its best chances of getting good catches.
Recreational lobster catches are made in two main ways, the most popular is by using craypots. Craypots can be wood, plastic, cane or steel, the design is very specific and must meet regulations that allow for maximum length, width, height and most importantly escape gap sizes and placement. Pots are baited and set overnight and then pulled the next day.
Diving is the other main way of catching lobster. Most divers search under rock ledges to find the lobsters and then either use a cray snare or a gloved hand to grab their quarry.
The rewards for an early morning start.
Lobster catching is a fantastic recreation and is the best way to secure a fresh feed of this fine delicacy. Let’s face it, 47,000 people can’t be wrong. Probably the most rewarding part of catching lobster is the ability to provide fresh crayfish for the Christmas lunch or dinner. It is what a true West Australian Christmas meal is built around.
Dropping lobster pots is both fun and rewarding, it is also a great thrill to take the whole family out to pull the pots early in the morning. The anticipation of the catch in the next pot never loses its shine and then to see what comes up is also just as exciting. Kids love the thrill of the searching for the floats on the pot and then the catch in the pot. While we are excited about the lobster, kids will go nuts about the octopus, shells, hermit crabs, starfish, sea lice and wobbegong sharks to name a few of the occasional by catch.
HABITAT AND DISTRIBUTION
Found between Exmouth in the north and Walpole in the south. They are inhabit inshore and offshore reefs, with larger individuals preferring deeper offshore reefs and are found under ledges or inside caves.
WHERE TO CATCH WESTERN ROCK LOBSTER
Do you know the difference between a lobster and a crayfish?
A lobster lives in saltwater and a crayfish lives in freshwater.
So the western rock lobster or as they are referred to by WA crayfishers, ‘crays’ is actually the wrong name. The term ‘cray’ however is so ingrained that I doubt it will ever change.
To fish for western rock lobster it is essential that you have a recreational rock lobster licence. The recreational rock lobster rules are probably some of the most complicated. Considering this fishery is the largest and highest value fishery in WA it is hardly surprising. The need to look after this fishery is of utmost importance for both the rec sector and the commercial sector. (The commercial take has a value of around $271 million per year.)
Check out our weekly fishing reports for Perth and the rest of WA.
Kids, friends and family all love the thrill that lobster fishing brings
RULES AND REGULATIONS
Western Rock Lobster are managed by fisheries under what is called IFM or Integrated Fisheries Management. This system can be a fantastic way to manage fish stocks, especially in single species fisheries such as Western Rock Lobster. The proof of how well this system is working can be seen in the accreditation. Our lobster fishery was the first fishery in the world to receive Marine Stewardship Council certification and has done so for the last 15 years.
The recreational sector has a very passionate group of lobster fishers that sit on the Rock Lobster Reference group, this group meets every year and puts forward new ideas to help the rec sector try and catch its allocated 5% of available lobster. This group is an arm of Recfishwest, and in years past has had some incredible wins, such as getting the daily bag limit from 6 back to 8, allowing three fishers on board a boat instead of just two. These are just two of the many successes.
A sight to get the mouth watering
This year the biggest change to the rules will be the ability for recreation lobster pot fishers to mark their pots with two licenses so that a single pot can be shared by two people. It is hoped this significant change will allow more people to take part and enjoy this great fishery. Even more, another win for this year was the removal of the maximum size limit.
Western rock lobster are a truly amazing tasting crustacean, which is why they are so sought after world wide. Eating and consuming lobster as soon as or soon after they are caught is very hard to beat and is recommended to get the most out of the flavours on offer.
Looking after your lobster for consumption at a later date can be difficult, however when done properly and carefully, it can extend the eating pleasure to months after capture.
Once caught, lobster will stay alive for many hours as long as they are kept in a cool, dark place such as an esky with no ice. If you prefer and have ice on hand they can just as easily be stored on ice.
If you catch an occy do not put occy and crayfish in the same storage, likewise do not mix crayfish with squid if you decide to do some squidding on the way home.
Cooking and Storing your Catch
If you are boiling your lobster you can keep them whole in the fridge for up to 5 or 6 days provided you keep them in a tub covered with a wet tea towel. Just drain off any excess liquid daily and ensure the tea towel remains damp. However with the new rules it is also now possible to shell the tails which can then be kept in a bowl in the fridge under glad wrap or a sealed lid. Once again just be sure to drain off any excess liquid if it appears.
Not everyone wants to store boiled lobster, so if this is you and you are not worried about presenting your lobster with the head on you can now take the tail off your lobster and store it in the freezer. The best way to remove the head is by cutting around the inside of the head and separating the head from the tail. Then get some square ice cream containers or similar and fill them with slightly salty or sea water. Place the tails in the tub so that they are completely submerged in the water and then freeze into a solid block of ice. A regular ice cream container should easily fit 4 tails in it with the lid on.
When you want to use the lobster tails simply defrost and remove from the block of ice. Done properly there will be very little noticeable difference after 3 months or so of being frozen.
If you prefer a whole crayfish with the shell on you can use the same method or if you are intending to eat them in a week or two, simply sedate the lobster in fresh water after capture, allow to drip dry and then wrap tightly in about 4 layers of newspaper. Then place into a freezer bag, seal with tape and mark with the day’s date so that you know which ones to eat first if you manage to get a few in the freezer. Obviously you will want to eat the oldest dated lobster first.